Happy Almost Turkey Day!

Happy Almost Turkey Day! I hope everyone is enjoying a nice short week and that you all are getting ready to be with or go visit family. It seems Thanksgiving got here in an awfully big hurry this year, but it is such a wonderful time of year. I am writing to you from the very luxurious Northside Hospital where I seem to have become a permeant resident lately! I checked to see if they had a bonus points program but they don’t and I don’t really want to cash in my points for more nights anyways ;). I know that Neil gave you all a little update while I was in for my first high dose. Your birthday cards and emails were overwhelming and were such a wonderful gift upon arriving home. I was literally brought to tears by the sheer volume of cards and I’m not much of a crier. Your sweet messages blew wind back into my sails and I can’t tell you how grateful and humbled I am by them. Neil was teasing me that he was nervous to write an update because he said he didn’t know if his writing would stand up to mine but I think he did a wonderful job. I always have admired how clearly he gets his points across with a lot fewer words than I can. I tend to get caught up in the details and suddenly I’ve written three pages and wonder how that happened. Partly a universal difference between men and women and partly because he runs a business where each word counts and less is more.

Anyways, let’s get everyone up to speed. As Neil mentioned, I was here for my high dose the week of the Nov 10th. What he didn’t mention was that he unfortunately came down with a cold a few days prior and was quarantined away from me for over a week or that his grandmother passed away that week as well. It almost got comical, not because any of that was funny, but because of the timing in life sometimes. Everything went well on all fronts and has quieted back down. For the high dose I came in on that Monday for IV hydration and started chemo on Tuesday and finished on Friday. Overall it wasn’t that bad of an experience, wasn’t lovely but was something I can definitely do again. The “extreme exhaustion” Neil referenced I think was the fact that I slept for almost two days straight. It was not a bad strategy looking back on it although not entirely deliberate either. A lot of the tiredness comes from the anti-nausea medications they give and seems to be more than a fair trade off. So on my birthday Thursday I woke up convinced it was Wednesday only to look at my watch and be pleasantly surprised I only had one day left. Kinda like when you wake up on Saturday sure that your alarm didn’t go off and that you are late for work, only to realize that it is the weekend and smile as you scrunch back down under the warm covers. So we finished with the chemo Friday and I was doing really well but they decided to keep me over the weekend because they didn’t want to risk exposing me to Neil’s cold and had to be back Monday anyways for the transplant. So Monday was the big day and the transplant went smoothly minus me tossing my cookies mid-way through. Odd because I am not much of a “thrower upper” but something (probably the preservative used prior to freezing) did not agree with me. So they thawed and injected 8 syringes back into my catheter and the first part of my deep cleaning was complete and I was able to go home. Gotta tell ya, I ran out the door. After one week of not having fresh air or a change of scenery, I was thrilled to get home and shower in my own shower without flip flops, sleep in my own bed, eat what I wanted, etc. But they had warned me upon discharge Monday that 99.9% of patients were back in about 3 days. So I thought to myself, “well if I can get the 0.01% of cancers, then I can certainly be the 0.01% who don’t have to go back in”, right? Well that lasted almost 4 days. So even though I was at home I still had to go in daily for about 6 hours of fluids, labs and whatever else I need according to my lab results. So I made it to Thursday night before I started to feel kind of crappy (kinda like when you start to get that achy feeling with the flu) and I took my temperature and it was 99.6…not good. I usually run in the low 97’s and 100.5 is the cut off. As the night wore on I knew we were not headed for a quiet night. By 11:30 my temp was over 101 and we headed in. I mean what else would you rather do on a nice quiet Thursday night? So antibiotics were started and here were are. It doesn’t look like I will make it home for Thanksgiving as my counts have to recover before they will discharge me. As I said, I would have to be in the clinic anyways if I wasn’t here so it saves us the hassle of driving back and forth and lugging my stuff around. Plus this is the time when I need the most blood products and they can hang it while I sleep most time versus just adding more time to a clinic day, so I’m OK with it. I’ve run the Atlanta Half Marathon every Thanksgiving since high school so it just isn’t the same anyway. I have just chalked this whole year up to my deep cleaning for all the wonderful things to come in the future and a wonderful learning experience. It looks like some time this weekend I may get the green light to go home and continue my daily visits to the clinic for another couple of weeks.

Everyone here is so incredibly nice and they have the most amazing nursing staff with mid-levels here all day if you need anything. We are squirreled away on the third floor of the hospital (ironically, just down the hall from where I did morning rounds on our patients when I worked here) in an isolated area behind two sets of double doors and all outsiders have to be buzzed in, wear gowns, shoe covers and wash their hands prior to entering. Quite the elite VIP status I have here! It’s a horseshoe shaped wing with a treadmill, bike and kitchen. You would think they had never seen anyone on a treadmill when I go for my power walks by all the high fives and cute comments made. I usually get on a couple times a day and it feels great to move and get out of my room. Speaking of my room, I have the most wonderful view of the King and Queen buildings (for those of you from the area) that I’m sure some condo owners would pay high dollar for. The other night it was rainy and nasty out and I was watching all the evening traffic and smiling to myself that that use to be me and how glad I was to be out of the “rat race” and be safe and warm up here. Neil always laughs at me this time of year because I say the same thing every year. When the first cold hits I always think/say, “Oh my gosh, what do homeless people do?” It always hit me the hardest when I would go out for a 5a run on a cold dark morning and think “at least I chose to be out here and when I’m done I’ll be able to take a nice hot shower and have a warm cup of coffee.”

Anyway, with all that caught up I have to tell you that lately I have had an overwhelming sense of gratitude and a feeling of such lightness. I find myself more anxious to get to the end of this treatment, not to hurry up and get it over with, but because I am anxious to give back. I’ve always loved animals (my mom thought I was going to be a vet when I was younger) and although Neil and I give to several charities animal are my thing. I have always wanted a dog but didn’t think it was fair to get one as Neil and I were never at home. So a rescue dog is on my short list of things when I am cleared to get one (6 months after the last high dose for new pet or flying). In the meantime, I found Atlanta Pet and Rescue where you can sponsor a pet that has been rescued from dire living conditions or from a kill shelter and pay all of their medical bills. It’s somewhere I would like to volunteer once I am cleared but in the meantime I have sponsored Gina, a 12 week old blond beagle/lab, who I hope will find a good home.

I find myself opening in new ways and I have started looking into pottery classes at a nearby arts center and other fun and creative things to try/learn that would have seemed a waste of time 6 months ago. I find I have a lightness inside of me and a sense of freedom that I don’t know I’ve had before. It’s as if there was a underlying current of unrest and agitation that I couldn’t seem to put my finger on. A panting, as if someone were breathing down my neck, only to turn around and find out that it was me the whole time and no one else. And suddenly I find all of that is replaced with a calm, fluid knowing that everything, both good and “bad”, were all necessary to get me to where I am today and I am thankful for each one. There is a knowing that all is well and that this is simply the process that was required to wake me up from a deep sleep to the rest of my life. I see so clearly now that this chapter in my life is really a love story…of falling in love with myself. Not from an ego sense but in realizingly the gifts and talents that have been given to me and honoring them and myself and seeing how I can serve others with them. I am so much kinder and gentler to myself. I have a patience now that seemed fleeting at best before. I find myself uninterested in TV and take such solace in moments of quite where I once would have wiggled out of my chair just to stay in constant motion. There is a balance now that would have seemed impossible 6 months ago and a feeling of freedom that seemed to be way off in the horizon before that is now woven into the very fabric of my life. A feeling of standing on the edge of a cliff, stretching my arms out wide with a content peaceful smile on my face and falling backwards and just floating out into nothing and everything. John Mayer has a live version of the song “Free Falling” that I really like and I have the above visual when I listen to it. I like that idea, free falling out into nothing. Just trusting the process to be what it is and let go of the outcome. All fear and doubt is gone and just this wonderful feeling of knowing I am exactly where I’m meant to be doing exactly what I am meant to be doing. I wish that happiness and joy for all of you if you haven’t already gotten there and I wish you all a wonderful Turkey Day with lots of yummy food and the warmth that only family can bring. I found a nice quote that is a lovely thing to remember when things don’t seem so great and with all of the terrible, scary things they bombard us with in the media these days it seems especially appropriate…

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” -Albert Camus

With love and gratitude,

Alyssa

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